|Wikileaks:||View 05QUITO120 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||KHDP PHUM MASS MOPS MARR EC PE|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 QUITO 000120 SIPDIS STATE FOR WHA/AND, WHA/PPC, PM E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: KHDP, PHUM, MASS, MOPS, MARR, EC, PE SUBJECT: DEMINING: POLITICAL PROBLEMS THREATEN OPERATIONAL SUCCESSES REF: 04 QUITO 2324 1. SUMMARY: Humanitarian demining (HD) continues apace in Ecuador, although political difficulties - both bilateral and multilateral - threaten future effectiveness. 2004 successes include the conclusion of mine clearance operations in El Oro, near-completion in Loja, and termination of mine impact studies in Morona-Santiago. International monitors have deployed in HD workzones to ensure top quality performance. And the contemplated FY2005 NADR appropriation should allow demining to continue uninterrupted until December 2005, if not longer. 2. Expected European Union HD funding has yet to materialize, however, owing partly to the EU's demand that Ecuador and Peru improve coordination to reduce costs. And with both sides bickering over an El Oro commemorative event, Peru's allegedly insufficient deminer deployments, and even the location of the pre-1998 frontier, better cooperation appears miles away. END SUMMARY. ------------------- A Year of Successes ------------------- 3. Guillermo Leal, head of the OAS's HD mission in Ecuador, provided Poloff January 11 a readout of current demining activities and future plans. He called 2004 generally successful, HD-wise. Mine clearance operations had ended in coastal El Oro province and residents were slowly returning to remediated land. To the south and east, mine removal activities had concluded in all by seven demarcated fields in Loja province, in Ecuador's southern highlands. Those minefields' difficult terrain -- mainly rocky riverbeds with high metallic content -- made discriminating between mines and the surrounding soil difficult. Leal claimed HD experts and manufacturers' representatives would visit Ecuador in April to evaluate state-of-the-art mine detection equipment not currently in the GoE inventory. 4. Fifty Ecuadorian Army sappers had deployed to Amazon province Morona-Santiago, Leal revealed. In December, they had completed a provincial mine impact study, the first phase in remediation (a technical study, mine clearance, and quality assurance would follow). The Army team had discovered and begun demarcating 53 mined areas on Ecuador's side of the frontier; they estimated an equal number existed in neighboring Peruvian territory. Near-term funding for the complex, tedious jungle operations appeared secure, with word of an estimated $260k FY2005 appropriation of State Department Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Activities (NADR) monies. --------------------------- With Failure in the Future? --------------------------- 5. Leal worried that European Union support, upon which out year (2006-2009) HD operations depended, looked iffy at best. Since minefields lay along the Peru-Ecuador border, EU appropriators argued against funding separate demining programs, as the OAS had. Instead, they were demanding joint operations wherever possible. Leal had urged the GoE to coordinate its EU "sales pitch" with GoP counterparts; he was skeptical of his own success, however. (Southcom staff claim that Leal's OAS superiors in Washington are more optimistic that EU funding will come on-line, once the two institutions resolve "procedural issues.") 6. Nor was Leal optimistic the two countries' authorities could resolve a tiff in El Oro. For political reasons, both Ecuador and Peru wanted a public ceremony to commemorate HD's completion on the coast, Leal explained. Yet as long as Peru refused to allow OAS quality assurance teams to verify the Peruvian Army's earlier remediation, Ecuador was leery of declaring the province mine-free (the OAS's monitors now number eight and hail from Brazil, Chile, and Central America). The GoE had similar reservations regarding Peruvian sappers' work in the highlands, in Peruvian territory bordering Loja. But Ecuador was most perturbed by Peru's lack of commitment to clearing mines in the eastern jungle. Leal asserted it made little sense for Ecuadorian soldiers to devote time, money and lives to HD operations on the frontier while Peru left its side seeded and dangerous. That said, the GoE was committed to continuing HD operations in Morona-Santiago. 7. Numerous factors contributed to the GoP's poor demining record in Peru, Leal added. The Peruvian Army was perhaps in worse financial straits than Ecuador's, for one, and faced greater security threats from insurgent groups. And the logistics of supporting a company of deminers, difficult in Ecuador, were nearly insurmountable in Peru, where supply lines were many times longer. Politics too played a part, as Ecuadorian forces, especially at the brigade and battalion levels, continued to suspect Peruvian counterparts' intentions. They regularly interceded with HQ to prevent GoP units from re-supplying via Ecuadorian territory, for example. 8. Relations were little better between GoE and GoP diplomats, Leal lamented. At a recent meeting of the bilateral frontier commission, the countries' representatives had wasted hours arguing a technicality: if the mines that Ecuadorian forces sowed before the 1995 hostilities, now clearly in Peruvian territory (as a result of the 1998 peace accord that marked the frontier), originally lay on Ecuadorian land. What mattered was remediation, not winning moot debates, Leal reasoned. 9. Another bilateral battle loomed. As part of the continuing USG commitment to HD operations in the Andes (and to promoting multilateral cooperation region-wide), U.S. military experts planned to train GoE and GoP deminers in Morona-Santiago in July. Leal was confident he could convince Ecuador's Foreign Ministry to approve the presence of the Peruvians. The Army was a different matter. Believing his influence in that institution lacking, he floated a possible strategy: that U.S. Embassy Milgroups in Quito and Lima lobby their respective host-nation militaries to achieve approval for the joint event. 10. COMMENT: The Embassy appreciates Department support of humanitarian demining in Ecuador and neighboring Peru. Realizing that competing demands, especially from central and southeast Asia, make funding HD operations here a hard sell, we favor any initiative -- Southcom's combined training being one -- designed with effectiveness AND cost savings in mind. Leal's plan to secure bilateral buy-in by engaging the Quito and Lima Milgroups seems reasonable and worth exploring. As such, he, Embassy officers, and a Southcom representative will discuss the details on January 24. END COMMENT. Chacon
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